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From as early as Genesis, Jews have pondered the heavens that surround our planet, as well as their place in them. Often borrowing from other cultures, they used astrology to help guide them in their daily lives, and, as science and technology progressed they became interested in new discoveries, often attempting to unite science and Jewish tradition. Astronomy, mathematics, and other sciences appear frequently in books published by rabbis and scholars in Hebrew and other languages during the 17th through the 19th centuries.

By the early 20th century, when science and tradition had already separated, Jewish inventor Hugo Gernsback coined the term “science fiction,” and founded a series of magazines that became the home for a new genre of space literature that would come to inspire generations of readers. Later that century, Jewish astronauts and cosmonauts would be shot into orbit as part of the space programs of both the United States and the Soviet Union, which also utilized the work of Jewish scientists and engineers, among many others, to reach these milestones. And finally, Jews sometimes appear in popular culture renditions of space, space travel, and science fiction, starring in groundbreaking television shows such as Star Trek, and beloved movies such as Spaceballs by Mel Brooks.

The exhibit Jews in Space tells the story of Jews’ relationship to the solar system, and features a wide array of materials, including:
  • Rare 18th and 19th century rabbinic tomes on astronomy in Hebrew, German, and Yiddish
  • Judaica taken into space aboard the Space Shuttle by astronaut Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman
  • Yiddish, English, Polish, and Russian works of science fiction
  • Rare Science Fiction Periodicals
  • Other ephemera from literature and popular culture

Jews in Space is available as a traveling exhibition. Please contact for more information.


Jews in Space: Meet Astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman

What's it like to spin a dreidel in zero gravity? Read the Torah in orbit? Celebrate Shabbat when the sun rises and sets nearly every hour? Jeffrey Hoffman, NASA's first Jewish male astronaut and veteran of five space shuttle missions, joined us on May 7th, 2018 to share out-of-this-world stories from his fascinating Jewish journey. Designed for space enthusiasts of all ages, the program included a talk about the history and achievements of Jewish astronauts with Valerie Neal, Curator and Chair of the Space History Department at the Smithsonian Institution.

Exhibit Highlights


Nimoy, Leonard
Millbrae, California: Celestial Arts, 1975
Private Collection

While there was nothing ostensibly Jewish about the hit TV show Star Trek, the two stars, Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner, are members of the tribe. Nimoy, in fact, was a Yiddish speaker who created a distinctive hand gesture for his character, Mr. Spock, which was based on a gesture he saw being made during the Jewish priestly blessing of the Cohanim in synagogue.


Isaac ben Joseph Israeli, c. 14th century
Berlin, 1777
Leo Baeck Institute

Isaac ben Joseph Israeli's Yesod 'Olam was considered the leading text on astronomy in the Middle Ages. It was held in such high regard for centuries that it was eventually published in 1777 by Jacob Shklover. Yesod 'Olam deals with geometrical problems of the earth and includes a highly valued method for calculating the parallax of the moon.


Vol. 1, No. 7
October 1926
Private Collection

Inventor Hugo Gernsback, a Jewish immigrant to the US from Luxembourg, launched Amazing Stories in 1926 as the first magazine composed solely of science fiction, a term he coined. As a forum for science fiction and its aficionados, Amazing Stories was influential in bringing together science fiction fandom as a movement and social group. Amazing Stories published writers who became some of the most influential and best-known science fiction authors of all time.


Ilan Ramon; Israeli Astronaut
Private Collection

Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli in space, died aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia, which disintegrated on re-entry on February 1, 2003. Ramon was born and raised in Israel to a Jewish family, his father and mother from Germany and Poland, respectively, and both his mother and grandmother were holocaust survivors from Auschwitz. Ramon was a Colonel and fighter pilot in the Israeli Air Force. He was the first astronaut to request kosher food in space, consulted with a rabbi about Shabbat observance in space, and brought a Torah scroll, microfiche of the Bible, and a picture of the earth drawn by a Jewish boy in a concentration camp during World War II. Ramon is the first and only foreign-born recipient of the United States Congressional Space Medal of Honor, which he was awarded after his death.


High-resolution set of 7 posters (18" x 24") available on request. Contact for more information.


This exhibit has been made possible in part by The David Berg Foundation's creation and support of The David Berg Rare Book Room and the generous support of Kepco, Inc., and the Kupferberg Foundation and Lisa and Joshua Greer.